“In this vivid account of GIs in wartime France, Mary Louise Roberts documents how the Greatest Generation was sometimes as badly behaved beyond the battlefield as it was brave in combat. What Soldiers Do is not a conventional history. It deeply—and often colorfully—textures our understanding of the experiences of men at war, the contours of mid-twentieth-century sexual (and racial) mores, and the frequently ignorant and even lurid attitudes toward other peoples that attended America’s ascent to global hegemony.”
David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War
Mary Louise Roberts
|Publication date: June 06, 2013 ||Cloth $30.00 • £21.00 |
|UK publication date: June 06, 2013 ||ISBN-13: 978-0-226-92309-3 |
For decades, we’ve been hearing the story of D-Day and the American liberation of France—told as a story of incredible bravery, heroism, and sacrifice. And it’s true: the Americans really did risk their lives, free France, and drive the Nazis out of Europe. But no matter how honorable the cause, war has always brought darkness with it, and in What Soldiers Do
, Mary Louise Roberts reveals a disturbing untold story of the aftermath of D-Day. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Roberts reveals how the US military command deliberately sold GIs on the invasion by using the image of sexually available French women—with terrible consequences. French citizens found themselves dealing with flagrant public sex, outbreaks of venereal disease, and even violence and rape. The war-weary and demoralized French population, initially grateful, was horrified—and the blithe response of the American military leadership caused serious friction between the two nations at a difficult time.
While never denying the achievement of D-Day, or the bravery of the soldiers who took part, What Soldiers Do
tells a troubling, important story about the horrors of war, and the violence and destruction that accompany it even when it is pursued for the noblest of ends.
Mary Louise Roberts is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. She is available for interviews.
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